Present: 1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team 1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team 2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 3rd - Dani Sordo, ...
1st - Sebastien Loeb, Citroen Total World Rally Team
1st - Daniel Elena, Citroen Total World Rally Team
2nd - Mikko Hirvonen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
2nd - Jarmo Lehtinen, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
3rd - Dani Sordo, Citroen Total World Rally Team
3rd - Marc Marti, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Olivier Quesnel, Team Principal, Citroen Total World Rally Team
Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.
Q: Sebastien, congratulations on your sixth FIA World Rally Championship title* and your 54th rally win. It's been an incredible weekend hasn't it?
SL: For sure I am really, really happy with this title. For sure it was the most difficult for me to get. This season we had some high and some low points - we started with five victories and everybody was thinking we would win the Championship and then we had a period where it was much more difficult. We had some troubles and made some mistakes and Mikko won a lot of rallies and took a lot of points. Finally we arrived here at the last rally and Mikko chased us. I was really happy after Catalunya when Dani (Sordo) helped me a lot to come back on form. I was really happy to have this chance again to fight for the title. It was really difficult rally. The conditions were extreme and Mikko was fast. We knew we would have to try really hard to take some risks and make no mistakes, and that's what we have done. It was a great rally and Mikko was pushing all the time. He has done a great rally. Finally, even today when I started with a 30 second lead I knew everybody thought that I was going to win, but in the car it is not the same story and you have to manage that, and keep in mind that you have to push because Mikko will try anything and I did a little mistake in the second stage and lost a bit of confidence in some silly places and then I was too slow and too cautious and lost a lot of time. From there we had to start very hard, but then Mikko had his problem and it was over. But it was a really exciting weekend with a lot of pressure and stress. To win this title in this situation is an incredible feeling.
Q: Has this been the toughest title fight of your career?
SL: Yes, for sure. It is the first time I have arrived at a rally knowing that I have to win to get the title so it's a lot of pressure and a different situation. When you have won the title three rallies before the end it's no big pressure, because you know, OK, if I finish third I will still be Champion and that's OK, but when you arrive like that on the last rally and you know that everything will be decided here it makes it a bit special.
Q: Let's talk about those stages yesterday Seb. You were spectacular on stages eight and nine. What was it about them?
SL: I was really angry after Mikko beat me on the first stage, that's the first thing. So I understood at this point that if I didn't react now, then he would beat me again and so I started flat out and it was a good rhythm and I realised how good the grip was which gave me the confidence. I have always been better on the second loop and because there is more grip and I can brake late like on tarmac. Our car was very good in that situation. It's much more difficult for me when it is really slippy. For sure when I saw in the splits that I was taking a lot of time out of Mikko I knew I would have to continue until the end, not to slow down and to take as many seconds as I can. I tried to do everything and really it was an incredible job.
Q: Seb there is a break now of three months until the start of the new season. What will you do?
SL: Have some holiday, that's the first thing, and just have some good times and start the testing for next year like every time in the winter.
Q: Daniel, congratulations and as Seb said, it is a special win. It has been a great atmosphere at the rally this weekend but a lot of pressure on your shoulders. What has it felt like knowing you needed to be in front?
DE: Yes for sure, when I arrived I knew what we had to do: we had to push and fight for three days and take maximum risks. It's very unfriendly on the car too because you are pushing it so hard. It was not easy conditions with the rain and mud but, OK, I'm happy!
Q: Mikko, what a day. You gave it everything but it wasn't enough. How are you feeling at the end?
MH: For sure I am disappointed. We got all the way here and at the start of the rally it was all fair and we had the same chance as Sebastien but we just couldn't do it in the end. It's been a great season anyway; very consistent all the way through and I haven't made any mistakes, except those few stages yesterday I think that's where I lost it. Maybe in the end I wasn't having the same rhythm and attack through the rally. The first splits I had yesterday I just couldn't believe how much time I was losing and you start to think that maybe there is something wrong with the car. I couldn't believe I was losing so much with my driving. I thought there was something but the boys checked the car and it was fine. It must be that those few stages just weren't for me, and that's where I lost the fight.
Q: It has been a great season for you, but after Argentina you thought that was it. You thought the Driver's title was over. It was an incredible turnaround.
MH: Yeah, it was. I never thought it would go right to the end and OK, at the start of the season I thought we were experienced enough to fight for it, but it didn't start well. Sebastien was winning all the rallies and then after Argentina I gave up. But then things went wrong for him and he made small mistakes and had problems so it gave us a chance to come back for the fight. So that was good and for sure it was a really exciting end for the season. But once again he was just a bit faster and took his sixth title.
Q: The fight-back began on the second stage today but on the penultimate stage what happened with that bonnet because on the first few splits you were up on Sebastien -- what happened?
MH: We were just a bit unlucky with that, but I don't know even with that if I could have caught him. Just after the jump the bonnet pin came off and it's so fast here that when the pin comes loose the air comes right underneath the bonnet and lifts it up a bit. Eventually on one really fast downhill straight the bonnet hinges broke, even though it was still attached by the other pin it blocked my view completely. I couldn't see anything so I had to stop and take it off so I could continue. That was definitely the final thing but like I said, we were still far behind and I'm not sure I could have done it anyway.
Q: It has been an incredible year, the battle has been intense. Seb obviously won the first five events this year -- you can't let him do that again next year if you want to get away with the Championship!
MH: Well he won five rallies this year, yes, but I was still leading before the last rally! But for sure it wasn't the best start for me. We weren't far away on those five rallies but I knew all the time we had to have perfect rallies if we were going to beat him but there was always something which I wasn't happy about and in the end we won four rallies in a row. It needs to be different next year if I am to fight like this year.
Q: Jarmo, it's hard to be positive when you haven't quite got there, but it has been a good year for you and you were the only ones really to put pressure on Sebastien and Daniel.
JL: Yes that's what I told Mikko. I am disappointed at the moment but for the whole season it has been the best season so far that we have ever had. We were on the pace everywhere else except on tarmac all year even though they won more rallies. Mikko was the only one all season who made no mistakes. We were always on a good pace and even though we didn't win we have to think positive and come back stronger next year.
Q: Third in the rally and third in the Championship Dani; a great rally and a great year for you.
DS: It has been a very nice weekend although very bad conditions. It's been a difficult rally and I try to go faster and faster but the level of Sebastien and Mikko was really high and it was hard to catch them, but the battle with Petter (Solberg) was nice over three days.
Q: A tough rally to kick off the season next year, Sweden, with snow. How much are you looking forward to that?
DS: Slippery. Now I like it more!
Q: Your improvement on gravel has been impressive; can we see you compete for the Championship title next year?
DS: We try to go faster and faster for sure. Yes the first rally will be in the snow in Sweden and I will prepare very well for that and after that I will continue to try and push in other rallies and try and win one or two. Maybe after my first win more will follow.
Q: Marc, congratulations on what is your seventh podium this year. Looking back at your season, what has been the highlight for you?
DS: I think it has been the increased confidence (for Dani). It's very important for a young driver when things happen very fast to be confident with the car and himself. Confidence gives you the ability to win.
Q: Olivier, the Manufacturer and now the Drivers' Championship after what has been an incredible battle -- great for Citroen but also great for the sport.
OQ: Well yes, because for Citroen we have won both Championships. This time it was really hard because after Greece we had some problems with the team and so we had to come back and in Spain get first and second, and Seb and Dani did it. We knew that Mikko would be going really fast but Seb needed to win the rally, which he did. He was amazing on the eighth and ninth stage. How he did it I don't know, but it was really amazing. So we are very pleased and I am very proud of the whole team. For Citroen it is really a great day.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Gareth Rhys Owen
Q: The announcement came this morning that the rally will come back to Wales next year. What is your reaction Sebastien?
SL: If I win again then I am very happy! For me it has always been a good rally here, with good stages. I am always happy to come here. For me it is perfect.
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA
FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
1st - Eyvind Brynildsen
1st - Denis Giraudet
Following a post event scrutineering report from the FIA Technical Delegate concerning Car 39, crew Eyvind Brynildsen/Denis Giraudet, the Stewards deemed that the rear brake calipers on Car 39 were not in conformity with Article 254A-5-6 of Appendix J and the Homologation Form of the car. The car was excluded from the event and the competitor is not appealing the Decision. The FIA Production Car World Rally Championship category was therefore won by Car 31, crew Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek.
Q: Eyvind, your first win in PWRC in what has been a dominant performance this weekend. How do you feel?
EB: It's really, really good. The first loop on Friday we went out for a big push and we hardly drove the car before, we just did a small rally in Cumbria and we thought "it's now or never" and we pushed from the first stage. We were leading into the first service and we led through the first day and at the end of the first day we had a good lead. On Saturday morning we started with a good push and after that we thought with this car we always need to push as it is quite hard to drive slow. It was good, I am really satisfied.
Q: Things got tough mid year, did this make up for it?
EB: The last two rallies, Spain and here, have been really, really good and we had such bad luck and silly mistakes and we broke a lot of gearboxes and had technical problems so it's been really, really good that in a proper car we can be really, really hot.
Q: So you like the Skoda Fabia then?
EB: I like the Skoda Fabia very much.
Q: At one of the stage starts Denis, Eyvind said he was "driving like a chicken", I'm sure he was not during the weekend. What do you think of his performance?
DG: It was the end of stage three and the few seconds we had alone between the stage and the stop he was completely "Ah I was driving like a chicken or my Grandmother", I don't know which it was. I told him I was not kidding I was sweating a lot even though it was in the S2000 and then at the end we were fifteen seconds faster than the other guy so it was OK.
Q: You have had an illustrious career in this sport and have sat with many great drivers. How does Eyvind compare and what do you think about the future for Eyvind?
DG: It is difficult to compare as he is at the stage of his career where I have not been before with a younger driver. He is already very good. When he's driving and in normal life you don't feel like you are with a 20 year old young lad, so I think he has still to improve but he has a bright future.
Q: It has been a great weekend; let's talk a little more in-depth about the stages and tricky conditions here in Wales. We had some rain over the weekend, how did you find it?
EB: Actually I like tricky conditions, it's the first time I'm driving through the stages flat out, because last year was my first time and I broke the engine on Friday. (Patrik) Sandell has been here five times or something and he became the World Champion here in the Juniors, its not so easy all the time to trust that your pace notes are perfect and all the tricky things that happened here in GB with all the mud and everything all the sudden show up in a corner. I really like the rally and I think bad conditions suit me well, a nice and tidy driving style without too much sideways.
Q: What about 2010? Where are we going to see you? It's early at the moment, so not a lot of things are signed and sealed for next year, but where would you want to be?
EB: I know where I want to be but I know where I have to be and that's on my machine to mail more companies to get more money, but I'd really like to be in the Skoda next year in the S2000 World Cup. But we will see, it depends on the budget so I really need to work hard. With Spain, the first time on tarmac with this type of car, we won and first time on gravel in GB we won again and I think we have done a good job, the whole team. It's the first time the team is in the World Championship in Spain and we were so happy with the victory and we won here against I will say the top level in group N, all the best guys. Around me all the PWRC Champions, you can mention all the guys around and Prokop in the Juniors too. For me, I'm only 21 years old and really happy I can beat those guys.
Q: How much will this win help to be able to secure something for next year do you think?
EB: In the old days you just went flat out and hopefully you won the rally and someone picked you up and you could do a test for any team. The sport has changed and now you spend more money, but I think it's really, really good and I think I've bought a ticket for next year with those results so we'll just see, I just have to work really hard to find money, I think that's the key at the moment.
Q: It is all about money these days isn't it and it is about sponsorship, but with the talent that Eyvind has got at his age, surely teams will be looking for something like that?
DG: As you understand he is not a dreamer, he knows that if he was a talented football player he could buy a pair of boots and be successful in a great team, but with a rally car it a bit difficult so we will see what it will bring, but it would be ideal to get back in the World Rally Championship in S2000 in 2010.
Q: And what about you, we've seen you competing with many drivers, are we still going to see you competing next year?
DG: I hope so yes, if you are not fed up with me!
Q: We're never fed up with you Mr Giraudet, we would like you back! Eyvind, tell me how it felt to go across the flying finish knowing that you had sealed the deal. Was that a special moment?
EB: It was a really, really good feeling, but I enjoyed the stage. Normally when you go into the stage and know that you have the job to win the rally, normally you are a bit nervous, but I was just enjoying it and we did the same as normal, we did the same with the tyre pressure before the stage. We went out and did a normal start and actually I need to push to be able to drive safe, so I went out with a normal pace, just took it a bit easy in some places and ok I was really, really happy when I could see the yellow board also the red one of course and I had a big, big smile when I crossed the finish line and I knew that I had won the rally and the next car is 1 minute 56 seconds behind. It's a good feeling.